KNOWN to generations of Oxford students as ‘the Bod’, the Bodleian Library was named for its original patron, Sir Thomas Bodley, who established the library in 1602. In doing so, he took upon himself the refurbishment of a former library that had fallen into disuse – Duke Humphrey’s Library above the Divinity School. That room was initially built in the late 1400s, to hold a large collection of texts donated to Oxford University by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester in the 1430s. Since its renaissance under Thomas Bodley, the Bodleian Library has continued to expand exponentially, and now takes up five separate buildings (Duke Humphrey’s Library, the Schools Quadrangle, Radcliffe Camera (pictured above), the Clarendon Building, and the Weston Library) and numerous underground stores.
Included amongst the more than 12 million items in the library’s collection are copies of the Gutenberg Bible, the Magna Carta, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poetry and letters, and Shakespeare’s First Folio. The Bodleian has status as a copyright library, meaning that it receives a copy of all texts published in the United Kingdom (and can request those published in the Republic of Ireland as well), as well as receiving donations of literary archives, such as those of J.R.R. Tolkien and spy writer, John Le Carre.
For students and staff of Oxford University (and some partner organisations), access to the library’s collections is available automatically, but other Readers must request a Reader Card. All users of the Library must first pledge an oath, in keeping with tradition, not to steal or deface the books, or to light fires within the library. Those affiliated with the University are permitted to take a written oath, but all visitors must speak the words aloud. In addition to using the library for research purposes, visitors are welcome to take tours of the library buildings, and enjoy the existence of so many books in architectural settings that span more than 500 years.
Physical address: Broad Street, Oxford
Phone number: +44 1865 277162
Business hours: Old Library. Term hours 9am – 10pm Monday to Friday, 10am – 4pm Saturday, 11am – 5pm Sunday; Vacation hours 9am – 7pm Monday to Friday, 10am – 4pm Saturday. Exceptions apply. Other Oxford libraries operate at different hours.
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